Tickets have been part of the printing services the Norlu Press has offered since its founding by my dad in 1937. Some of the earliest jobs he printed were tickets, and I continued to print these kinds of jobs-sometimes for the same customers-forty years later as a teenager working in my dad’s shop.
We printed raffle tickets for fraternal groups and veterans’ organizations, band and orchestra tickets for our local high school in Fairport, New York and dance tickets for events hosted by a variety of individuals and organizations.
Often, these tickets required a stub to be retained by the person who purchased the ticket as proof of purchase or for a drawing or raffle. In order to do this, we had to perforate a line across the ticket to allow the stub to be torn away the main ticket. My dad taught me how to do this when I was a fourteen-year-old boy in 1978, and in this post, I will share the technique I learned all those years ago. For this lesson, I am using the same 1863 Gordon Old Style Jobber platen press that he used between 1939 and 1942, but I am printing a ticket to a 2015 holiday party.
Caution! The perforating rule we will be using will damage the surface of your platen and put a nasty cut into your rollers. Please be sure to follow steps 1 and 2 before going any further!
Step 1: Remove the rollers. You do not need rollers to perforate on a letterpress printing press, and unless you want to carve a ring into your composition or rubber rollers and render them almost useless, remove the rollers from your press!
Step 2: Place a die cutting jacket or other piece of steel directly on your platen. Unlike the soft lead and wood types you normally print with perforating rule is made of steel.
Its sharp teeth will leave their mark on the surface of your platen if you do not protect it. Some press models have available steel jackets that fit over the platen for die cutting, scoring and perforating. If you don’t have one of these, you can have one fabricated or, as I have done, have a single piece of sheet metal cut to the size of your platen. In the picture above, you can see that I am using a 7″x11″ piece of steel (the size of my platen) to which I have added heavy duty tape along each edge to prevent cutting my hands and fingers.
Step 3: Add two draw sheets. Add one or two sheets of tympan paper over the top of your steel plate in the same way you would if you were printing a job with types and ink. Secure them in place with the bales.
Step 4: Begin your form. Now that your press is prepared, it is time to set up your perforating rule in a form. First, select a rule that is one to two picas longer than the line you want to perforate. This is to ensure that your perforation extends the entire length or width of the ticket or other job you are perforating. In this photo, I have selected a 16-pica steel perforating rule, because the height of the ticket I need to perforate is 15 picas.
Once you have selected your perforating rule, select two six-pica wide pieces of furniture that are at least as long as your rule and place one along each side of it. Instead of positioning them in the traditional way, rotate them 90 degrees on your imposing stone so that they are slightly taller than traditional furniture. This little trick will provide more support and help to keep the rule from bending on impression with the steel plate on your platen.
Step 5: Complete the form. Place the rule with the two six-pica pieces of furniture alongside it in the approximate position within the chase that corresponds to the location of where your rule will perforate. This is the same as positioning types and other matter to be printed, and as with those materials, the perforating rule should be above the center of the chase to maximize impression and ease of hand feeding. Add furniture and quoins, then complete the lockup.
Step 6: Pull an impression and get position. Place the chase in your press. (At this point, it is a good idea to ensure that you have removed your rollers and placed a steel plate on top of your platen.) Cycle the press to allow the perforating rule to strike the tympan paper. If necessary, use a pica gauge and pencil to draw a line over the perforated marks to make them easier to see.
After you can see the line, select a run-up or additional printed piece from the job you are working on. (When you are adding a process like perforating, numbering, or printing multiple colors to a traditional print job, you should allow an overage of as much as ten percent to allow for gaining position for each successive step.) Draw a line that extends all the way across the edge of your printed piece along the axis that you want to perforate. This line should be exactly where you want your job to be perforated. After this, simply line the printed piece up with the line where the perforation strikes the tympan and set your gauge pins as you would with a printed job. Once you confirm position, use additional printed pieces and adjust your packing so that it becomes easy to tear the stub off, but not so much impression that it cuts too far through the paper and separates the stub from the main ticket.
Step 7: Perforate your job. Now you are ready to perforate your tickets. In some cases, you may find that the perforation works better when the impression is made on the back side of the job.
That is all there is to it! Perforating is a lot like printing on a platen press, as long as you remember the nuances described above. It is also an example of something a letterpress printer can do that no laser printer can duplicate.